I had some brown sugar that didn't get properly sealed and so now it's too dry and solid as a rock. What's the quickest way to soften it up and get rid of the clumps? Folks have suggested leaving an apple with it in a bag overnight; any suggestions of a shortcut for rehydrating that takes minutes instead of hours or days?

15 Answers 15


There are a variety of tips for quickly softening hardened brown sugar here: 10 Ways to Soften Hard Brown Sugar.

The one that worked best for me personally, when I had to do this in a hurry, was to chip off a large chunk of the hardened sugar, put it in a (microwave-safe) Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel, and microwave it for 5-10 seconds at a time until it was soft enough to use. Don't pierce the bag; the whole point is to allow the steam to re-hydrate the sugar. But obviously don't leave it in the microwave for too long either, otherwise the bag will either melt from the heat or explode from the steam. You should also let it cool for a minute or two between zaps; the sugar will continue to absorb moisture as long as the steam can't escape.

I also use the paper towel trick if I need to re-hydrate the sugar the day before. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the sugar, then a damp paper towel on top, and seal it. It'll be good as new the next day. Don't leave the paper towel in there for too long though, otherwise it'll grow mold (doesn't seem like it should, but I personally witnessed it happen). I like this method because it doesn't require me to waste any apples or bread, if I even have any around.

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    Don't microwave plastic. Ever. Unless you want cancer. Then gopher it. – user17509 Mar 26 '13 at 23:52
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    @clyde Some kinds of plastic are safe - that's why Aaronut mentions using a microwave-safe bag here. – Cascabel Mar 27 '13 at 0:41
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    @clyde: That's not a fact, it's a combination of myth, paranoia, misinformation, and outright propaganda. PET (Type 1), HDPE (Type 2), LDPE (Type 4), and PP (Type 5) are all microwave safe; those comprise the vast majority of "Ziploc" type bags and plastic food storage containers. The only ones you really need to worry about are polystyrene and polycarbonates containing BPA. – Aaronut Mar 27 '13 at 2:45
  • Just tried this and it worked like a charm. Most ziplock baga are microwave safe, certainly for the actual amount of microwaving this required. – Iguananaut Jan 21 '14 at 23:50
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    thought I would mention this because of the problem at hand...Sugar is hygroscopic which is the reason that sugar clumps up. To reduce the possibility of this occurrence vacuum seal your sugar or use airtight containers to lessen this effect. It will not remove it completely because brown sugar has molasses added to it which also adds additional moisture content, but it will help control the situation. – Chef_Code Apr 9 '15 at 18:15

When I have hardened sugars, especially when I first buy rocks of jaggery, I'll grate it like a hard cheese, which turns it back into a powder very quickly.

  • You have a preferred type of grater? I'm picturing a traditional Microplane, but I suppose this idea would work with many styles of graters. – Dolan Antenucci Aug 4 '15 at 17:50

Easy, place in food processor and process until powdered

One damp it will clump together again if stored, so just process what you need

Adding steam or heating it will more than likely make it unsuitable for storage


Wet a dishtowel.Make sure that it is really wet almost dripping. Microwave it for 2min. Be carefull it is really hot and steaming. cover top of bowl( Do not touch brown sugar)Microwave another 30 sec. Let set for 1 to 2 min. take out. Break up with for and hands.


I know its not quick, but I store a slice of bread with my brown sugar. Softens up hard sugar and never let's it get hard if a new bag.

  • Have used the slice of bread trick also and it works. The bread gets hard but the sugar will still stay soft. – user29094 Nov 5 '14 at 7:00

I've done this before by steaming it. I used a large pot of water and suspended a bowl full of brown sugar above it. After a few minutes, it was soft enough to work with. It seems to me the same can be done with a tablespoon of water in a bown of brown sugar in the microwave. Just cover with plastic wrap and pierce for a couple steam vents. Just don't cook too long or the sugar may start melting.


Put it in a container in the microwave with a small bowl of water beside it. Microwave for 1 minute; check and (if necessary) microwave for another minute--making sure you don't overdo it. It worked GREAT.


Who says you need to buy a cute terra cotta teddy bear? I left a small terra cotta planter outside during winter and rescued 3 broken pieces that weren't sharp. I washed them off, dried them, re-wet them with hot water and stuck them on top of the brown sugar. I closed up the bag and within 15 minutes, the top of the sugar was soft ~ 1 cup worth. I repeated the process and it softened further.


Years ago I use to siice an apple in half....place it on wax paper and place the paper on top of the dried brown sugar. It use to work.....haven't had to do it for years. Hope this works for you.


I found the fastest and easiest way to accomplish softening brown sugar was to place the brown sugar on to a paper plate, then place an additional paper plate over the top of the brown sugar. I then used the top paper plate to smash down the brown sugar. Then I took my hammer to it and smashed it, it was nice and fine and soft after wards. Then you just dump it back into your container. Takes less that one minute to soften brown sugar.

  • I could not get my brown sugar soft, So I tried a wet paper towel and microwave. (this sentence needs revised, it almost sounds like an unsuccessful attempt at a trick you may know. But the reader has no reference to the "wet paper towel and microwave" trick. – Chef_Code Apr 9 '15 at 17:59
  • sorry I see the reference now, at the end of the sentence I could not get my brown sugar soft, So I tried a wet paper towel and microwave. you will still need to state that the "trick" was unsuccessful or not. – Chef_Code Apr 9 '15 at 18:05

Place the brown sugar, in an extra large airtight container. Boil water, and put into a cup (I usually use a couple of ounces). Put the cup into the container, making sure that the cup and water does not touch the brown sugar, close container and leave for 30 minutes or until soft. Remove cup carefully, making sure not to spill water.

My smart sister would place open bag of hardened brown sugar in a large airtight baggie. Add a slice of apple between the brown sugar bag and the baggie so the brown sugar wouldn't come into direct contact with the apple. Close airtight baggie, when brown sugar is soft, remove apple.


Place the sugar in a ziplock bag and pound into powder with a rubber mallot.

  • This doesn't so much soften it as break it up - and it's pretty tough to break it up all the way into granulated form again. – Cascabel Mar 24 '13 at 21:27

boil a pot of water, take the pot off the stove and sit the brown sugar container in it...will soften up beautifully in about 10 minutes or less. Easy/Peasy


All of these are fine methods. Over the years, since I don’t use brown sugar so often, I just use granulated sugar and add some molasses to it. then I never have to worry about my bag ofbrown sugar turning into masonry. Its a nice experiment to add molasses to sugar and mix it and see it magically become brown sugar. This will also help you determine how much molasses to add in the future (in nearly all cases you do not need to actually combine the sugar and molasses, but you can just throw both in at the same time.)


Just put in a couple of apple slices and the brown sugar softens like magic. Remember to taie the apple out otherwise it will mold

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    Welcome to the site! How long does it take until the apple slices soften the sugar? The original poster is in search of a merhod that takes minutes... Welcome to the site, btw.! – Stephie May 6 '15 at 20:57

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